Everyday People – Part 2 – Changing Times

This week, we carried on with our “Everyday People” theme, and took a trip down the high street. We started off with a quiz to identify the high streets of different towns around Derbyshire. It’s such a big county that the people who lived in Buxton couldn’t recognise places further down south, like Alfreton.

We talked about green grocers, cobblers, butchers and bakers, and watched the famous film of ‘Night Mail‘ by W.H.Auden. This inspired us to write our own poems about the amazing everyday things that we sometimes take for granted, disappearing shops on the high street, and old remedies and treatments you could get from the chemist.

I’m at Walton Hospital next week, but this was my last session in Buxton and Bakewell until January, and I look forward to returning with some interesting new topics.

Things we Take for Granted

The car starting in the morning,
Hot and cold running water,
Food to put on the table,
Warm clothes to wear,
Hospitals to look after us,
Electric power for all our gadgets,
Pubs open longer and Sunday shops opening,
The marvels of central heating,
The bin lorry to take away our rubbish.

But some things are a bit more of a pain –
The bin men used to carry our metal bins
Rather than wheeling them ourselves.
Sorting out our own rubbish at the tip,
Separating our recycling into green, blue and red.

But it used to take a whole day to do the washing
With the mangle and the starch
Dolly blue and rubbing boards
Flat irons heated on the fire,
You’d spit on them to check they were hot enough.
Terry nappies were a pain.
Ice on the inside of the window
Peg rugs on the floor;
Army greatcoats on the beds.
Pantries before the age of fridges.
Darning old socks and tights.
Black leading grandma’s range.
Outside lavs down the yard –
With squares of newspaper or scratchy Izal
Your mother used to do your hair
Basin cuts and wonky fringes.

We used to make do and men
Holes in our shoes with cardboard in,
Hand-me-down clothes,
The smart stuff saved for Sunday best.
Nowadays we take too much for granted.


The Disappearing High Street

No more high street Miliners’
Seasons of Buxton, Milligans
Madame Marsh and Madam Owen.
Hats on wire stands, ladies’ gloves.

Scotts’ behind the market for school uniforms –
The blue flowery polyester blouse for Buxton Girls’ School.
With a page boy collar, like an old lady’s nightdress.
A slight improvement on the previous brown one, with matching hat.

Potter’s Outfitters – for home furnishings,
A real old fashioned window display.
The only place you can buy proper curtains in Buxton
With a nice pencil pleat, not those big holes.

Clew’s Chemist shop with those big bottles
Disappointingly only full of coloured water.
Arsenic tablets labelled on the wooden drawers.
The greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers
Are few and far between; the Fairfield dairy shop long gone,
With its two ladies in beehive hairdos.

Now old-style sweet shops have returned.
I wonder what else will come back to our high street!

Old Fashioned Medicine (in Grandma’s handbag)

Butter for a bumped head
Indian brandy for tummy ache
Smelling salts in Grandma’s handbag
Would blow your head off – ammonia.
Camphorated spirits, Epsom salts
Andrew’s liver salt
Henneman’s horse liniment – for humans’ aches and pains!
Menthol crystals or Olbas oild for a blocked nose
Laxative chocolate found in Grandma’s handbag,
Would have an unusual result.
Senna pods and rhubarb to “make you go”
Syrup of figs to “make you go”
Liquid paraffin too – we must all have had trouble in those days!

Udder cream for chilblains,
Caustic pencils for verrucas
Victory Vs for a sore throat
The nit-nurse’s fine-toothed comb.
Zinc and castor oil cream for nappy rash.
Dettol, gargling with TCP
Oil of cloves for toothache.
It all worked.
Sanatogen tonic wine for building your strength
Guinness and Makeson stout for pregnant ladies.

4711 cologne in Grandma’s handbag,
Witch hazel for sunburn
Camomile for conditioning hair
Plants are still our medicines –
Present, past and future.
Who knows what remedies are still out there
In the forests, waiting to be found.

School Memories

And we’re back! In my first sessions in Derbyshire hospitals last week, we looked at memories of school, talking about school uniforms, playground games, school dinners and learning to read and do sums. We even got to ring an old a school bell.

Some patients had grown up in the countryside, and had missed out on a lot of school due to having to help out on the family farm. Some patients had been teachers, and could look back on their career as well as their school days.

Different wards, in Cavendish and Newholme hospitals, wrote the verses of this poem.

Playing conkers

Playing conkers

School Days

I used to have to milk the cows before I went to school
I always got the cane because I always played the fool.
We had to learn our letters and do our tricky sums,
Praying that our home time would soon come.

Smart in our school uniforms, wearing our caps.
In assembly, we’d sit so still, our hands in our laps.
‘All things bright and beautiful’ we sang off by heart.
A rousing way for the school day to start.

The boys played marbles, conkers and football
While girls played hopscotch, skipping and netball.
A is for apple, and B is for ball
Practised times tables to chant in the hall.

Looking back on school days as pupil and teacher
Making the classroom bright and cheerful was a main feature.
The photographer’s coming, so the kids pull their socks up,
Tie their shoelaces, comb their hair and get rid of the muck.

Make sure you’ve got two pencils with points on
Teacher will expect your tie to be kept on.
Ink-stained shirts from fountain pens.
A cracking sound as my desk lid opens.

Sliding on our stocking feet on shiny polished floors
Bottled milk for morning break – we’d suck it through our straws
In freezing weather, milk would freeze and icicles would grow.
Walking home two-by-two in a neat and tidy row.

Learning sums

Learning sums